Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Clothespins Of Mommy


I'm not much of a hoarder. Still, there's stuff.

Dave knocked the hoarder out of me early. I'd begun to accumulate treasures. Tchotchkes. Dave, rather than grumbling outright, mentioned that if he had his way, he'd live in a house that could be cleaned with a fire hose. I'd already bought him a pressure washer, sensing somehow that he would really like it, and he really, really did. It frightened me how much he liked it. The man would blow the hide off a dusty buffalo if it wandered into our yard. I visualized my little treasures pulverized and began to divest. It wasn't that hard: I discovered that the clean, spare spot left behind was like another little treasure.

But some things are harder to get rid of.

What never seems to go away is the stuff that came down through the family. Photograph albums from nearly the dawn of photography. Newspaper clippings about dead relatives that have been allowed to yellow in peace. (The clippings. The relatives tended toward sallow, too.)

And then there's the serious family crap. The pewter urns. The silver. The furniture of known provenance handed down through the generations from the Revolutionary War era and landing with a thud on my barren self. It ends with me. I can't give it away. Now I know why the Pharaohs were buried with all their all their crap.

But it's other stuff too. The clothespins. Mommy's bag of clothespins! The Clothespins Of Mommy! I took them home from the funeral along with a bunch of other stuff and stashed them in the basement near the clothes dryer that had made them obsolete. But a few years back, I fired the dryer and brought out the clothespins. Mommy's clothespins! They were at least as old as me and could have been much older. Could have been her mom's. Some had hinges and they weren't rusted or anything--worked fine. Most were the peg kind. The kind people use in crafts; the kind kids make stick people out of. I left them out in the rain a little too often and they got funky. They began to leave marks on my laundry. They had to go. But where? I couldn't just toss them out.

Because they were Mommy's! She'd had them in her apron. In her fingers. In her mouth. With the right laboratory and a little skill, we could clone the sweetest woman in the whole wide world from one of these. We could clone a bunch of them! I have a lot of clothespins.

Then it occurred to me. SCRAP is a cool local store that sells recycled everything--anything a child could use in crafts. They'd love my clothespins! They'd appreciate my clothespins! I put them in a bag and we hiked over to the store. There was a sign: Do Not Leave Anything. Ring Bell For Clerk. Of course they didn't want people dumping all their crap. They only wanted good crap. The clerk bustled by with boxes from someone's tailgate. She looked harried. "I'll be with you in a second," she said, not meaning, actually, the very next second. Many, many seconds later she came back, pushing a lock of hair from her sweaty forehead.

"If she doesn't want my clothespins, I'm taking them back," I'd told Dave. "You hear me? They're going in my tomb." Dave looked wary. There's going to be a tomb, now?

"What've you got?" the clerk said, weary.

"Heirloom clothespins," I said, holding out the bag. She opened the bag. She looked inside. Mommy was in there. Mommy wafted right up out of the bag and unfurrowed the clerk's face. She knew how to do that.

"Heirloom clothespins! I love them!" She clutched the bag to her bosom and walked away with a big dopey smile. That made three of us.

Mommy always could do that.

42 comments:

  1. I have my mommy's clothespins, too, and use them almost daily. since we have a LOT of trees (and hence, a LOT of bird poop), I gave up on an outdoor clothesline. I have clothesline strung up between the posts in the attic, and I can use it rain or shine. Beats the hell out of making the electric company richer by running my dryer all the time. It's hot enough up there in the summer that things dry in a couple hours, although in the winter, it sometimes takes DAYS.

    I'm kind of with Dave on this subject, as I am a minimalist. I only keep what is useful a/o what I love. It makes cleaning so much easier and quicker, and it actually feels good not to be inundated with lots of stuff. Whenever I go to someone's home who is an obvious packrat, I always feel a little unsettled. Much the way our distant ancestors must have felt when they had to leave the savanna to go into the forest for some reason.

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    1. At this point I only use the dryer about twice a year, when Dave persuades me that our guests would prefer fluffy towels. Personally, I think some of our guests could use a good exfoliatin'. I love your savanna metaphor.

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  2. I think my heart just cracked open. That's a good thing. I am the Designated Keeper of Stuff in my family because certain siblings of mine (YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE) have the pressure-hose mentality.

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    1. I'm also the family archivist because at the time my parents died I thought I'd do some organizey stuff with all the photos and things. I never did. They're still in boxes, but basically nobody else wanted to do it either, so it's not like we lost anything.

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  3. I moved drying out back this summer and didn't have to buy clothes pins. My best friend gave me her mommy's stash of "pegs".

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    1. Love the pegs. I couldn't find any, and in fact had trouble finding any kind of clothespin, so I ended up with a bunch of wooden hinged types from the Dollar Store. I don't want to think too much about the wages of whoever produced them.

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  4. Some may only be crappy plastic, but when I'm standing in my yard hanging clothes with the sun on my back, I do often think about my mother-in-law who had entirely too small a life.

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    1. She might have, but hanging clothes might have been a bright spot. Well, maybe that's only me.

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    1. I think I know what that means, but it could also mean that whole other thing.

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  6. I hope you saved at least one!

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    1. I know, right? I saved one, and Pootie saved one.

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  7. I feel the same way about one of my dad's old bamboo rods. I can fish with it up here and be back on the Mackenzie above Springfield in 1955.

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  8. How could you bear to give them up? Or maybe you have other things of your mom's and you are just being sensible. Can you tell I'm of your (former) mentality? (valiantly trying to move in the direction of Dave's, though)

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    1. I'm still on that trajectory, just a little further along than you. Stuff weighs a body down, don't it?

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    2. P. S. Love the sign on the clothespins - "per handful".

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  9. Awww, Murr! I, too, find that it is the mundane, every-day objects that most strongly evoke memories of Jean & Herb. One such item was the "Artbeck Turkey Baster", which we lovingly kept in its original 1950s cardboard tube. Then one day while basting something, "The Artbeck" accidentally fell to the floor, got hit at just the right angle, and broke. James and I haven't been the same since! http://media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com/736x/b9/ff/9d/b9ff9dcc9d1a31bfd56fb99a51b52f0f.jpg

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    1. Gosh, I'm afraid "turkey baster" has taken on a whole different meaning for me since the 1950s. You could make an art project out of it...

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  10. Drat you Murr. This post has made my eyes a bit leaky AND taken some parts of me that I am working on and pegged them out in the open air. Where anyone can see them.

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    1. Hey! "Drat" is nostalgic, too! Just remember to peg out the sheets in front to hide those other parts.

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  11. Wooden pegs...very much a part of my pre-plastic childhood, too.And cane laundry baskets, made at the Blind Institute. And an old woollen Army blanket that was a play tent for kids and a table cloth for poker nights.
    I hope Pootie takes good care of his peg.

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    1. Man, I was just thinking about that cane laundry basket, after duct-taping my plastic one together for the nth time (I refuse to get a new one). I must see about getting one.

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  12. I have my Mom's old dishwashing brush that she used, instead, as a backscratcher. I used it as a household brush until the handle fell off, then repaired it with hot glue. Now it's my bird-bath scrubber.
    I know that when I go, my kids will be saying, "Why on earth would Mom have kept all this old trash? Toss the works!"
    Or maybe my grandkids will be inheriting a broken-down, fuzzy dish scrubber.

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    1. Maybe your grandkids will have come around to recognizing the folly of tossing things out. Maybe they'll have to. I'm not sure that's all bad.

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  13. I was a history major in college, so naturally I inherited all of the sentimental family possessions (from grandparents and parents) that nobody else wanted but that they couldn't bear to just throw away, either. ("Do you want this? I don't want this. Put it in the box for Barb.") But like you, I am the end of the line. I'm now in the process of going through the boxes of old photographs and sending batches to various cousins. At least those items will have a home in the next generation.

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    1. I was a biology major. I guess it was natural for me too. "Hey, it's your biological parents." At least one album--my dad's childhood album, with photos circa 1910--I should pack up and send to Bisbee AZ historical society or something. Lots of landscape and village pics.

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  14. Aww..

    It's hard to let go of that sort of thing. But I think they went to the right place. Your mother would probably be happy to know that kidlets will be enjoying her clothespins.

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    1. Swear to everything, I could not have let go of those clothespins if they weren't going to a place like SCRAP. I almost decided the little gray marks on my T-shirts were okay after all. But Dave had higher standards for his T-shirts!

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  15. What a sweet, sweet post! I love it!

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  16. I think this is an amazing post. To think that clothespins mean that much. I'm definitely an editor. Every time I move from one refuge to another, I have to decide what I'll leave behind or take to Goodwill. And then I shop at Goodwill when I reach the next place. I've learned to love those clear spaces and to keep my books on my i-pad.

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    1. You made me think of something that I am supposed to be ashamed of, but aren't. Amn't? Anyway, I have friends who (I have learned via Facebook) tend to judge people by the content of their bookcases. And if I weren't lazy, I would have weeded out my bookcases already of everything that wasn't a beloved childhood book (same rationale as the clothespins at work here), a book I actually might read again (not many), or a field guide. The rest I'm happy to read via e-reader. I used to be a Liberry person but I now try to purchase books in order to honor the author.

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  17. I still have too many knick-knacks and doo-dads, but not much in the heirloom department. My mother's rolling pin, two remaining teaspoons from a set of six, my dad's naturalisation (citizenship) certificate. That's it.
    I love that photo of Pootie with the clothespin.

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    1. I should just check the drawers to shake out all the cooking paraphernalia I have that's older than I am. Including a Scottie Dog cookie cutter. Oh, and a lefse pan...

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    2. A soft Norwegian flatbread, often made with potato, and served with butter and cinnamon and sugar. That was the way I had it, anyway, and was enchanted by it when it was offered by a friend's grandmother about 50 years ago.

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    3. All the lefse I ever had was made with potato. So, basically, you had your potato, made as a flattened vehicle for butter and sugar (cinnamon optional and presumably not always available to good Norwegians). Which means it was very tasty, if not real sophisticated.

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  18. The clothespin's face even looks like Pootie. Or did you draw that face on that precious heirloom?
    Ah, tha ya be, me hearty, in all your swashbuckling glory.

    I loved this post with the gorgeous photos. More please. Tell us about the bloke in the uniform. He has a very wistful look on his face that makes me curious about his story. Family histories rock!

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    1. Uniformed dude is me great-grandfather Brewster, lieutenant in the Civil War. I'm posing with a sword he picked up on the battlefield (not his). It was a Rebel sword, so of no value to anyone else in the family!

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